Tuesday, September 30

Persecution.......American style....

"If the watchman sees the sword coming, and does not give a note on the horn, and the people have no word of the danger, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them; he will be taken away in his sin, but I will make the watchman responsible for his blood." Ezekiel 33:6 (BBE)

I have often mentioned a desire to belong to a Christian community that is bold in their faith enough to stand against the secular desire to silence people of the Christian faith. To stand without regret in a manner that reflects the boldness of God and the declaration of their right to worship. Not to do so in a way that is opposite of what the Bible declares us to be, but refusing to allow limitations to be unfairly imposed because they declare themselves to be evangelical born-again Christians.

It appears that I've found a Pastor who isn't afraid to declare that he struggles, is open and direct in his teachings, and will stand upon the call to lead the faithful in the battle to preach the Word of God, regardless of what others might do to stop him or the faithful he shepherds.

The current form of battle which Pastor Combs and his congregation at Faith Baptist are involved in differs depending on who you ask.

The congregation says that the Township of Waterford is persecuting the church in violation of their rights.

The Waterford Township Supervisor, Carl Solden, says that the issue isn't one of a First Amendment right to freely exercise religion but one simply of a noise complaint filed by one of the church's geographical neighbors, Timothy Carlson.

Carlson filed a lawsuit in February with the Oakland County Courts seeking a court order for the reduction of volume used in the worship service which features 'rock music' and other songs. "When you can hear the noise, inside a residence across the street with the doors and windows closed, it's too loud," said Carlson's lawyer, Andrew Paluda.

Pastor Jim Combs first contacted the Thomas More Law Center in late October 2007, after the first in a series of police raids.

Uniformed Waterford Police raided the church without any warrant and detained Campus Pastor Mark Kerr, performing an interrogation and unlawfully seizing his Driver's license. During a Wednesday night youth service, uniformed Township police, led by the Township prosecutor, burst into the Church’s sanctuary where the Church’s “Praise and Worship” band was warming up. The prosecutor ordered the officers to take the names and addresses of all the young people on stage so that they could be charged with “disorderly conduct. “ On a Sunday, Waterford Township police again raided Faith Baptist, this time during the Pastor Comb’s evening sermon, attempting to disrupt the service by ordering the "Praise and Worship" band members out to surrender their driver's licenses for personal information. An Assistant Pastor volunteered to bring the members to the police to prevent an uproar with the congregation and the police backed down. In another incident, the Township prosecutor was caught conducting personal surveillance on the Church from his parked car just days later.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit in March against the Waterford Township supervisor, prosecutor and two high ranking police officials because of the police incursions into the church and threats made by the Township prosecutor to continue each time music was heard coming from the church walls.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for TMLC said, “Uniformed police officers entering a church during religious services and young church members being threatened with prosecution is something that happens in Communist China - not in America. “

Faith Baptist members have allegated police harassment in the forms of such raids are to silence their right to worship which violate their Free Exercise of religion, Free Speech and Freedom of Association rights under both the Michigan and the United States Constitutions . The actions of police have had a chilling effect on worship, the suit claims, which is seeking a cessation of the raiding tactics and monetary damages.

Thompson spoke of why Faith Baptist filed the counter lawsuit, “It is clear that Waterford Township authorities targeted Faith Baptist Church because of the type of religious music it uses in its services. Some of the individual police officers involved in the raids - apparently more sensitive to the constitutional protections surrounding religion than were their superiors - personally apologized afterwards.

Solden denies any harassment from the Township or the Police Department, saying "We're trying to get this resolved in a reasonable way."

Such 'reasonable' methods used by the Waterford Township sound more like European tactics involving silencing the Christian faith than tolerance for all Americans to pursue the religious worship they please. Or even the Chinese heavy handed persecution of the Christians within their borders, forcing many to live underground in "house" churches. Or even the historical persecution of the faithful in the annuals of European history. Yet, this isn't making alot of news in the liberal media outlets. One might say that it's because of a 'low news status' or maybe 'no new news.'

Why then, when the Al-Isah Islamic Center wanted to sound the muslim call to prayer in Hamtramck, a previously predominantly Catholic and Polish community, was there such an outcry against those who opposed it? The Center wanted to use loudspeakers to sound the call throughout the community and the media was quick to point out that the Christian churches in the area traditionally sounded bells that could be heard for miles. The Center was eventually given permission.

Waterford is not alone in its pursuit of congregations within their jurisdictions, with such legal battles happening on an alarming basis throughout the nation. In our 'own' backyard, there are many cities who are using the legal system in an effort to curb churches. The City of Southfield lost a case in 2007 against Lighthouse Community Church of God under the Religious Land Use and Institutions Persons Act, which prevents governments from zoning out houses of worship in their communities. Dan Dalton, a Royal Oak attorney who represented the church in the case said, " The cities have, for the past 200 years or so, said, 'We'll tell you where you can be because we don't want to lose tax base.' " Churches are non-taxed, either in tithing given or properties owned. It is not the churches, Dalton claim, that are wanting to be in court.

Faith Baptist Church, headed by Pastor Jim Combs, has a congregation of 10,000 members and conducts nondenominational, contemporary religious services on three different campuses. The police raids targeted the Waterford Township campus with 5,000 members. I attend his church centrally located between the two other campuses in Holly, Michigan named The River. I live next store to the College Street campus, which is a converted school building. The congregation is approximately 1,000 (by my observation) that meet in the Holly High School Auditorium every Sunday at 9:30 am.

In biblical times, a trumpet (hebrew word is "shofar") was sounded to warn people of impending danger, among other reasons. As the country moves towards a more liberal, universalistic religious attitude, the persecution and limiting of the Christian faith will only get worse as the world progresses towards the day of the Lord's Return.

We continue to deal with the effects of 'feminizing' men, killing our future generations in the womb, removing the reminders and heritage of our Christian faith upon the culture, and watering down the uncomfortable Truth that is evidenced in the Biblical scriptures.

We often look towards churches and Pastors like Jim Combs and the members of Faith Baptist as being poor Christians because they chose not to back down or apologize for their faith and stand upon the liberties of this country to pursue those rights to express their belief and joy in Jesus Christ. This country has moved further left as it continues to allow the dream of the founding fathers, who spilled their own blood and the blood of their families in an effort to allow themselves to be free to worship as they pleased, is being rewritten into a dream of liberal universalism of an subjective truth called "modern" Religion.

Though the country was not founded as a Christian nation, the faith and its tenents were used in the formation of the government and the laws by which it was once governed. The government is nothing like what it was originally formed to be; the judicial branch is making the laws, the legislative branch is a collection of self-perserving interests, and the executive branch is cut off from coordination of the two.

As we move closer and closer to an election of a President who no longer holds the heritage and value of the evangelical faith as paramount, who takes the oath to preserve, defend, and protect the original Constitution of the United States of America but rather opts for a more liberal and culturally shifting interpetation of the dream that once gave birth to a nation of hope, it will be the faithful who stand regardless of the persecution and devaluing of their beliefs upon the fields of spiritual battle and raise their swords and shields high.

The sword is swinging and the faithful are its target.

It is time to sound the shofar, to warn of the dangers that await this once-great nation as it heads into the darkness of humanism, universalism, and atheism. We have forgotten the face of our Father.

We have forgotten who's we are.

No longer is silent faith acceptable, if it ever was. It is time to preach the Good News, to show those we love and care for, as well as the stranger on the street, that salvation is available and soon, before we know it, the choice will no longer be accessible as our Lord returns.

The fields are ripe for harvest, yet the workers seem to be on a lunch break.

Pastor Combs and the congregation of Faith Baptist aren't the first and hopefully the new leadership of the Christian faith that is being developed today will not forget their charge; to preach the Gospel and to stand firm in their faith.

I think I've found my home for the season God has me here.



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